Nothing like a main event, Alexander Gustafsson vs. Gegard Mousasi, between two accomplished mixed martial arts (MMA) standouts with 41 combined finishes in 54 fights.
Check that, Pride FC, DREAM, and Strikeforce veteran Gegard Mousasi is determined more than ever to finally make his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) debut this weekend come hell or high water, taking on last-minute replacement Ilir Latifi, a homegrown (Stockholm, Sweden) product who trains alongside Gustafsson, who earlier today was officially ruled out of the UFC on Fuel TV 9 main event opposite "Dream Catcher" because of a severe cut suffered in training this past weekend.
The unlikely pairing is now set to headline the promotion's return to Ericsson Globe Arena this Saturday afternoon (April 6, 2013).
Joining Mousasi and Latifi on the televised card are the likes of Brad Pickett, Ross Pearson and Matt Mitrione, among others, all of whom will look to notch memorable performances for the Swedish crowd.
As with all FUEL cards, UFC's Facebook page will host a solid set of "Prelims" under card bouts, the first four of which we examined yesterday right here. Today, we breakdown the remaining three that will air live -- and for free -- on Facebook before the FUEL TV event starts at 2 p.m. ET.
Let's get cracking:
After bouncing back from a tough first round to submit Cuban striker Yoislandy Izquierdo in his debut, the Sweden-based Reza Madadi (12-3) looked to have kept his UFC record spotless his second time out, outbrawling Chute Boxe veteran Cristiano Marcello in Brazil. Unfortunately for "Mad Dog," the judges disagreed, handing the Iranian-born wrestler his first defeat since 2008.
After a 1-2 start to his UFC career, Michael Johnson (12-7) looked to have finally hit his stride, upsetting Shane Roller and Tony Ferguson before scoring a vicious come-from-behind knockout on Danny Castillo. The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 15 alum Myles Jury, unimpressed, scored a huge upset when the two met at UFC 155, utterly dominating "The Menace" on the mat to score the first decision victory of his career.
Johnson, 26, will be fighting for the honor of the "Blackzillians," currently in the midst of a brutal UFC losing streak.
If the Fury fight hadn’t happened, I’d be calling for Johnson to win this easily. Since it did, I can’t get over how easily Fury was able to put Johnson on his back and how thoroughly he trounced him once there. Madadi’s last fight was God-awful and I’m not going to argue that his striking is worth a damn, but he’s insanely durable and relentless. In addition, his wrestling is top-notch and his Brazilian jiu-jitsu is solid. And had he not afforded Marcello's ground game so much respect, I firmly believe he could have won easily.
Johnson will own the fight on the feet, but his lack of stopping power will cost him as Madadi’s balls-out pursuit of the takedown begins to pay dividends. His nonexistent game off his back will seal his fate as Madadi constantly threatens submissions and ground-and-pound for a decisive victory.
Prediction: Madadi by unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Tor Troeng vs. Adam Cella
After starting his career 4-3 with losses to the likes of Mamed Khalidov, Lucio Linhares and Daniel Acacio, something seemed to click for Tor Troeng n(15-4-1), who proceeded to go 11-1-1 in his next 13 contests, the sole defeat coming at the hands of Thales Leites. This impressive record earned him a spot on TUF 17 where, as a member of Team Chael Sonnen, he was knocked out in the quarterfinals by Josh Samman after earning his way into the house via submission.
While the show has not yet concluded, the Swedish "Hammer" was permitted to fight in front of his countrymen this Saturday.
Adam Cella (4-0), who started his professional MMA career in Sept. 2011, finished his first four opponents in a combined 5:39, likewise earning him a shot on TUF 17, where an early submission in the qualifiers led to a place on Team Jon Jones. However, Cella -- who split his wins between knockout and submission -- had no answer for the athleticism and power of Team Sonnen’s Uriah Hall, who chewed him up on the feet before nearly decapitating him via spinning hook kick (watch it here).
Cella’s overall game looks decent and Troeng’s (lack of) striking defense has me worried, but pretty much everything else favors the latter. He’s faced some of the better competition in Europe, while Cella has three wins over winless opponents and the fourth over someone with a losing record.
Further, Troeng has home-court advantage, five times as many fights, and, in my opinion, a better wrestling game.
There’s no telling if Troeng is -- as occasional training partner, Gustafsson, suggests -- the next big thing out of Sweden, but he should win this one without too much trouble. Expect the huge experience difference to come into play as Troeng's ground game wears down Cella en route to a late submission finish.
Prediction: Troeng by third-round submission
170 lbs.: Adlan Amagov vs. Chris Spang
After four years at Light Heavyweight, during which time he drew with Bellator champion Attila Vegh, Adian Amagov (11-2-1) elected to drop to 185 pounds for his tenure in Strikeforce, racking up a solid winning record (3-1). That sole defeat -- coming at the heavy hands of the aforementioned Lawler -- was the first since his debut against Heavyweight submission specialist Alexey Oleinik.
Spang’s brother Andreas may have hit a rough patch recently in Bellator, but "The Kiss" is entering the UFC with some momentum, having stopped fellow import Nah-Shon Burrell in brutal fashion this past May. The win marked his third by (technical) knockout and his fourth first-round stoppage.
Despite his opponent coming down from Middleweight, the two men are equal in height.
I’ve obviously got reservations about picking someone dropping a weight class, much less someone dropping his second weight class, but I’ve a hard time seeing Spang win this. Amagov, while primarily a striker, has a very effective trip game and solid skills on the mat, while Spang lost two fights ago based on his inability to stop the takedown. He’s a powerful, effective striker, but so is Amagov, who also has the bigger standup arsenal of the two.
Amagov fading late and Spang pouring it on is a very real possibility, especially since losing steam almost cost Amagov in his Strikeforce debut, but I’m confident that his Jackson coaches and squad mates will ensure a proper cut.
Spang does not beat Amagov at the latter’s best, and even if he isn’t at it his first time at 170 pounds, he’ll be close enough to it to keep Spang guessing until a shin upside the dome ends things early.
Prediction: Amagov by first-round technical knockout
Two proven finishers in a five-round fight regardless of the final combination. Life is good.
See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire card on fight afternoon (Sat., April 6, 2013), starting with the Facebook "Prelims," which are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. ET, as well as the main card, which is slated to air at 2 p.m. ET on FUEL TV.